Dairy Growth through Diversification
Freund Farms, Inc.
East Canaan, CT
Dairy Focus Consultant: Ed Varnam
- Diversified into three businesses to support growing family
- Farm manure turned into an in-demand byproduct with international business
- Works with Cargill to support business entities and feed their dreams
The Freund family has been successfully creating new business opportunities since 1949 for three generations on their northwestern Connecticut dairy. But their latest, an internationally in-demand planting pot made from the farm’s manure, is among its most creative. This creativity and diversification is what allows more family members to join the family business at Freunds Farm, Inc. Amanda Freund, a third generation farmer, manages the planting pot business branded as Cowpots™.
Amanda is a Cornell graduate who worked for a congresswoman, Farm Bureau and spent time as a volunteer in the Peace Corp before rejoining the family business to oversee sales and marketing for Cowpots. According to their website, Cowpots is an American company committed to providing high quality, biodegradable, plantable pots. Manure is turned into odorless, biodegradable planting pots in various sizes that dissolve and fertilize the plant once they’re put into the ground. This ingenuity has turned their cows’ waste output into a sustainable, profitable and environmentally beneficial business.
“I remember when we first started in 2006. I was packing up the family minivan and driving to local hardware stores, trying to sell pots made out of poo,” Amanda laughed. “There were plenty of people that were like why? What are you doing here?”
Now, more than 12 years later, the Freunds are selling their manure byproduct all over the U.S., into Canada, and they even shipped two pallets to a rose grower in the U.K. “We’ve developed an international demand for our cow manure which is pretty darn impressive. It’s helped our farm to stay viable and successful,” Amanda said.
To make this a sustainable, value-added product, the cows need to eat a high quality feed. Amanda’s primary chore on the dairy farm is feeding the cows which is complementary to her CowPots role. “Nutrition is absolutely a cornerstone of everything that we're able to accomplish here,” Amanda stated.
Ed Varnam, Cargill dairy focus consultant, works with the farm to make sure that the cows are receiving the nutrition that aligns to overall farm goals, both with CowPots and their robotic milking units. Ed visits the farm routinely to make sure that there is harmony between what nutrients cows receive from the partial mixed ration and the grain offered in the robot. “Now that they have the robots, we’re trying to meet more regularly than before as a group, so we can take a more analytical and teamwork approach to ensure things are going well,” said Ed.
“Our relationship with Ed has gotten much closer [since installing the robots] because we’re relying on him to find that nutritional balance,” Amanda commented.
When it comes to being back on the farm and running a family-owned business, Amanda wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s challenging to work on the farm, but at the end of the day, I'm incredibly proud of the fact that we're providing 2,300 gallons of milk every single day from this farm that's being consumed locally. Having a retail farm market and a product [CowPots] that we're selling to consumers is one more way for us to connect with people, to show them that their dairy and their manure is coming from a good place,” she said.